One of my favorite culinary reference books is The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown & Co., 2008, ISBN-10: 0316118400). If I’m working with an unfamiliar herb or spice, and wish to pair it with citrus or another herb or spice, The Flavor Bible is my first go-to in order to assess the compatibility of different flavors. For example, I’ve been on a cardamom kick recently, but it’s still new enough of a flavor to me that I’m unsure about what it goes well with. The other day, the BGTK was making one dish using curry and cumin, and another of potatoes with a lemon butter. I thought that The Flavor Bible might confirm, first, that lemon and curry were compatible flavors, and second, if there might be another spice I could add to the potatoes that would complement both the lemon butter and the curry. So I looked up both “lemon” and “curry” in the reference lists, and lo and behold, cardamom was listed as compatible with lemon, curry, and potatoes. So I tried a light seasoning of cardamom on the potatoes, and it was lovely, just as The Flavor Bible indicated. I learned something valuable for subsequent flavor pairings!
The Flavor Bible regularly points me to harmonious flavors, and just as often makes me think twice before serving a dish with ill-advised combinations. I also consult the book when working with a new recipe that sets off my Suspicious-Flavors-Radar, such as a recent example that called for ginger, capers, lemon, bay leaves, and dill. As I suspected, there was no reference under dill to any of those other flavors, but since the other ones appeared to work well together, I opted just to delete the dill from the recipe.
Then again, The Flavor Bible can do only so well as the chef—it cannot fix an operator-error, such as putting cinnamon, rather than cumin, in the stuffed eggs. Not that I have done that, or anything. No bueno, estupida!!